Toronto Raptors

Farewell Kevin

Farewell KevinFarewell Kevin, we hardly knew thee. Reports indicate Toronto Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill will soon be gonzo as he and the club finalize a buyout of the final year of his contract.

If the Raptors lose one of their final two games, they will have lost 50 or more games two seasons in a row. Hell, I'm glad they're cleaning house. Grunwald is gone, O'Neill will be gone, the assistant coaches will be gone...I'd like to can that overly-enthusiastic Raptor mascot and that baldy announcing the players while we're at it. I'm tired of missing the damn playoffs.

"Change does not necessarily assure progress, but progress implacably requires change." - Henry Steele Commager

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Grunwald Fired

Grunwald FiredJust last weekend I expressed my frustration with the Toronto Raptors and reiterated the fact everyone is all too aware of, "Something's Got To Give". Today, something gave.

The Raptors have fired general manager Glen Grunwald, according to reputable sources. Former Detroit Pistons GM Jack McCloskey will take over Grunwald's duties on an interim basis.

We're currently 11th in the weak Eastern Conference and that's not nearly good enough. Grunwald has had seven years to produce a winner and he's failed. He's a great guy, and he made some good moves, but the end result is the only result that matters. Will Kevin O'Neill follow? If Vince Carter demands a trade, we'd better hope so. Now lets hope the new GM can pull a point guard and a center out of his hat.

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It. Is. Over.

It. Is. Over.Words won't accurately describe how frustrated I feel with regards to the Toronto Raptors. I almost wrote this post following the overtime loss to Houston a couple of games ago. Instead, I held off and placed the fate of our entire season on yesterday's game against the beat up Knicks. It was clear if we couldn't take out the Lenny Wilkens Knicks, we weren't making the playoffs.

Sure, Vince Carter played well. He really did. For a while, it looked like we'd even win. In the end, however, we lost by seven. Bye bye playoffs.

At the beginning of the season, I wrote the following: "I anticipate a dramatic turn around following a horrific injury riddled season last year. If Vince Carter can stay relatively healthy, a playoff position is a virtual certainty. With Lenny Wilkens out of the picture, we actually have a coach who will coach. There will be game plans and strategies implemented. I predict a sixth place finish in the Eastern Conference and an upset victory in the first round of the playoffs." Boy was I wrong.

Does Kevin O'Neill have to go? The Globe and Mail, citing multiple sources with ties to Vince Carter, suggested the Raptors' star would seek a trade during the off-season if O'Neill remains the team's coach. Does Glen Grunwald have to go? He's had plenty of time to build a winner yet here we are missing out again. As the Beastie Boys said, "Something's Got To Give". I'm way too frustrated.

And yes, I'm well aware we could still make the playoffs. Following last night's loss, we're two games out of eighth in the conference with two teams to leap frog. Trust me, you can put a fork in the 2003/2004 Toronto Raptors. They're done.

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The Real Lenny

LennyIt's been over a month now since Isiah Thomas hired Lenny Wilkens as coach of the New York Knicks. In my entry from that day, I openly laughed at Knicks fans. You see, I'm writing from experience. I watched him lead my Raptors for three seasons during which time he was 113-133. There was no leadership, no system and no coaching to speak of. Lenny's only play was to get the ball to Vince Carter. During his third season at the helm, not a day went by that I didn't pray for his firing.

After a 9-3 start for the Knicks under Lenny's rule, I was worried I'd have to eat crow. Today, as the Knicks come to town, I see they're 2-8 in their last ten games. It seems the ineffectiveness of Lenny Wilkens is creating the results I expected. And yes, I realize my Raptors are 1-9 in their last ten, but I blame Lenny for that too.

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Mr. Popular

Mr. PopularVince Carter received 2,127,183 votes and will once again start at forward for the Eastern Conference in the 53rd All-Star Game on February 15th. It is the fourth straight time Carter has been the league's top vote-getter. Michael Jordan and Julius Erving are the only others to receive the most votes at least three times.

Talk about Mr. Popular. His last two years have been injury plagued, yet he still received more votes than any other player in the league. More than Allen Iverson, more than Shaquille O'Neal and more than Yao Ming. I'm a huge Vince Carter fan, don't get me wrong, I was there when he single-handedly scorched the Suns by dropping in 51 in our first ever NBC game, but how is it that he remains this popular? He's not just popular, he's in Michael Jordon and Dr. J territory. He hasn't won an NBA championship, in fact, he's only won one playoff series ever, you can't claim he's the best player in the league and he doesn't play in a huge US market, he plays in Canada. It's miraculous when you think about it.

I'm happy for Vince and ecstatic as a Raptors fan, but his popularity astounds me.

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Not In-Vince-able

VinceI'm bracing myself for the worst. Vince Carter strained his right quadriceps in the first quarter of Thursday's 78-74 overtime win in New Orleans and is out of action listed as day-to-day. Carter is far and away our best player and having a pretty darn good season thus far for the Raptors. We've seen what happens when he's out of the line up for an extended period of time.

Vince Carter is starting to remind me a lot of Wendel Clark. Clark was the best player on the Maple Leafs but would miss large chunks of seasons with various ailments. He'd be missing for months at a time and then he'd return and score a hat trick. You always wondered what might have been had he remained healthy.

Last season, Carter was on the injured list three times and missed 39 games because of injuries to his left ankle, right knee and left quad. Two seasons ago, Carter missed 22 games because of injuries to his left knee, which required arthroscopic surgery, and to his left quad. I hope Carter only misses a few games with this latest strain and returns to lead us to the playoffs, but as I said, I'm bracing myself for the worst.

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Lenny Wilkens

LennyIsiah Thomas has fired New York Knicks head coach Don Chaney and hired former Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

I can't believe Lenny Wilkens has managed to find himself another head coaching job this quickly. Not only did he land a head coaching position, but one in the largest NBA market to boot. Is Isiah Thomas an idiot? Do Knicks fans realize what's in store for them? I can't help but laugh out loud at this ridiculous turn of events.

It's possible Lenny Wilkens was an effective head coach at one point in his career. The man does hold the record for most NBA victories by a head coach. Of course, he also holds the record for most NBA losses by a head coach. I watched him lead my Raptors for three seasons during which time he was 113-133. There was no leadership, no system and no coaching to speak of. Lenny's only play was to get the ball to Vince Carter. During his third season at the helm, not a day went by that I didn't pray for his firing. I hated his style and knew the Raptors would never be successful under his indifferent watch. This man is a dinosaur who has failed to change with the times. His only title came in 1979 and he's been milking it ever since.

I can't wait for this hiring to blow up in Isiah Thomas' face so I can laugh some more.

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The Fab Five

The Fab FiveThe Raptors have won two in a row since the big trade. The Raptors showed an exciting offensively flare in both victories, something that's been sorely missing in these parts the past couple of seasons. From what I've read this is due in no small part to the presence of Jalen Rose who attracts attention freeing up others to put up the big numbers.

Jalen Rose was a member of the Fab Five. The Fab Five were a group of freshmen who all started for the Michigan Wolverines NCAA basketball team back in the '91-'92 season. They were Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwon Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. They would play together for one more year during the '92-'93 season before Webber turned pro.

This collection of freshmen started played above the rim and played an exhilarating brand of ball. My brothers and I would watch them every Saturday and adopted them as our team. Prior to the '91-'92 season, I wouldn't have considered myself a particularly huge NCAA basketball fan. That all changed when I happened to catch a Wolverines game on the tube early in the season. Selling my brothers on these five was easy once they saw their up tempo run and gun style of play. C-Webb was our favourite, but Rose and Howard weren't far behind.

The Fab Five never won an NCAA Championship, but both years they played together they reached the finals. With Rose's arrival in Toronto, he joins King as one of two members to have suited up for the Raptors. Webber has experienced the most success in the NBA, but both Howard and Rose are substantial contributors for their respective teams.

I've never been able to recapture that feeling watching NCAA basketball that I felt watching the Michigan Wolverines in the early '90s. Come March Madness I try to conjure up similar feelings for certain teams, but nothing comes close. The irony is that Michigan has forfeited all victories during this era after a federal investigation revealed that former booster Ed Martin had given a total of $616,000 to Chris Webber and three other ex-Michigan players. Michigan programs and media guides won't even mention the Fab Five by name. The banners celebrating the Final Fours have been taken down at Crisler Arena as if this never happened. It's as if a part of my history has been erased.

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Farewell to the Junk Yard Dog

JYDBack on February 22, 2001, in a far more innocent world than the one we live in today, the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons completed a trade. Leaving Toronto for the motor city were Corliss Williamson, Tyrone Corbin, Kornel David and a draft pick in exchange for Eric Montross and Jerome Williams. Jerome Williams, better known to fans as the Junk Yard Dog, was so excited at this news he drove all night during a snowstorm to Toronto. His enthusiasm was everpresent from this moment on. JYD clearly loved playing for this city and he never gave less than 100% as a result.

The rumours that have been circulating for days about a blockbuster deal between the Raptors and Chicago Bulls came to fruition yesterday as JYD accompanied unhappy Antonio Davis and Chris Jeffries to the windy city in exchange for Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall and Lonny Baxter. When JYD heard the news, he wept.

I happen to like this deal as one that will help my team, but I'm sorry to see Jerome Willims go. I'll never forget that goofy grin and constant interaction with the ACC faithful, not to mention a ton of rebounds. They don't grow NBA players like that anymore and that's a shame.

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Vintage Vincent

Air CanadaWhen Vince Carter is on, there is no better basketball player on the planet. Thankfully for us Raptor fans, he has clearly returned to form after a couple of inconsistent injury plagued campaigns. I was glued to my television last night as Carter threw the entire squad on his back and dragged them kicking and screaming towards a fourth quarter comeback and overtime victory. His unbelievable reverse-360 layup led to a three point play that tied the game and to ensure Atlanta didn't steal it back he made a game saving block at the end of regulation. In overtime, it was clutch shot after clutch shot and a final bucket with 1.2 seconds remaining to clinch the 99-97 victory over the Hawks. "Air Canada" finished with 43 and showed the basketball world one more time what Michael Jordan may have looked like in a Raptors uniform.

On a side note, Vince Carter holds the Raptors record for points in a game with 51 and he did this back on February 27, 2000. I remember this game against the Suns vividly because I was there with my friend Mark. A part of me still hopes Vince stalls at 50 when he's having one of those nights, unless I happen to be at the ACC that night, in which case he can go for 60.

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